Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving From Mary Garden And Her Native Friends

"The Chiefs and the Prima Donna" (Photo: Underwood & Underwood) 
In a photo, originally published in the 1913 edition of The Outlook Magazine, soprano Mary Garden is seen greeting new friends: "A company of Indian chiefs from the Glacier Park National Reservation in Montana who recently came to Chicago to present a pair of moccasins to the Indian maid Natomah, in the opera of that name, a part taken by Mary Garden. The moccasins contained 200,000 beads, and it took two months' work by ten squaws to make them." [Source] Natomah is an opera in three acts by Victor Herbert. "First performances on any stage at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, February 23, 1911, with Miss Mary Garden, Miss Lillian Grenville, Mr. Huberdeau, Mr. Dufranne, Mr. Sammarco, Mr. Preisch, Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Nicolay, Mr. McCormack." A full synopsis, information about the opera and the Natomas, as well as audio excerpts from the opera, can all be found after the jump.

"The time is 1820, under the Spanish régime. The scene of Act I is laid on the Island of Santa Cruz, two hours' sail from the mainland. Act II takes place in the plaza of the town of Santa Barbara on the mainland, in front of the Mission Church. Act III represents the interior of the Mission Church. At the beginning of the opera Don Francisco is awaiting the return from a convent of his only child, Barbara. His reverie is interrupted by the arrival of Alvarado and his comrades Castro, Pico, and Kagama. Alvarado wishes to marry his cousin Barbara in order to gain possession of the estates left to her by her mother. Caster is a half-breed. Pico and Kagama are vaqueros and hunters. All three have come to the island ostensibly for a wild-boar hunt, but Alvarado has timed his arrival with the return of his cousin. Lieutenant Paul Merrill, an American naval officer, and Natomah, a pure-blooded Indian girl, appear together at the back of the stage. His ship has dropped anchor in the Bay of Santa Barbara. Natomah has never seen an American before and she is fascinated by him. She tells him of a legend of her people. She is the
Mary Garden as Natomah
last of her race. During their childhood she was Barbara's playmate. She tells him of the young girl's beauty, and imagining that when he sees Barbara he will fall in love, the Indian girl begs him to permit her to be at least his slave. Barbara and Father Peralta enter. With the young girl and Paul it is a case of love at first sight. When all but Castro and Natomah have gone into the hacienda, the half-breed urges Natomah to cease spending her time with white people and to follow him, the leader of her race. Natomah turns from him in disgust. When they separate, Alvarado serenades Barbara who appears on the porch. Fearing to lose time he declares his love. But he does not advance his suit by taunting her with her infatuation for the American officer. When she leaves him he swears to have Paul's life. Castro suggest that it would be better to carry Barbara off. Natomah, hidden in an arbour, overhears them discussing their plans. The next day a fiesta will be held in honour of Barbara's return. When the festivity is at its height fast horses will be ready to bear the young girl away to the mountains where pursuit would be difficult. When all the guest have departed, Barbara speaks aloud in the moonlight of her love for Paul. He suddenly appears and they exchange vows. The next act shows the fiesta. Avarado dances the Habanera with the dancing-girl Chiquita. There is formal ceremony in which the Alcalde and leading dignitaries of the town pay tribute to the young girl on her coming of age. Alvarado begs the honour of dancing with his cousin. The American ship salutes and Paul arrives with an escort to pay tribute to the Goddess of the Land, Barbara. Alvarado demands that his cousin continue the dance. A number of couples join them and the dance changes into the Panuelo or handkerchief dance of declaration. Each man places his hat upon the head of his partner. Each girl retains the hat but Barbara who tosses Alvarado's disdainfully aside. During this time Natomah has sat motionless upon the steps of the grand-stand. When Castro approaches in an ugly mood, rails at the modern dances and challenges someone to dance the dagger dance with him, she draws her dagger and hurls it into the ground beside the half-breed's. The crowd is fascinated by the wild dance. Just as Alvarado is about to smother Barbara in the folds of his serape, Natomah, purposely passing him, plunges her dagger into the would-be abductor. The dances comes to a sudden stop. Alvarado falls dead. Paul and his escort hold the crowd at bay. Natomah seeks protection in the Mission Church at the feet of Father Peralta. At the opening of the third act Natomah is crooning an Indian lullaby to herself in the church. She wishes to join her people, but instead Father Peralta persuades her to enter the convent." [Source]

"Natoma is a 1911 opera with music by Victor Herbert, famous for his operettas, and libretto by Joseph D. Redding. It is a serious full-scale grand opera set in Santa Barbara, California in the "Spanish days" of 1820; the story and music are colored by "Indian" (Native American) and Spanish themes. It premiered in Philadelphia at the Metropolitan Opera House on February 25, 1911 and was later mounted at the New York Metropolitan Opera House on February 28, 1911. Herbert stated that 'I have tried to imitate Indian music. But I have used no special Indian theme. Indian themes are all very short and unharmonized. I have tried to get the effect of Indian music without using the thing itself. It is the same with some of the Spanish music which occurs in the score. There is Spanish coloring, but I have taken no special Spanish themes to start with.' Natoma was not quite the first American opera to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera—that honor belonged to The Pipe of Desire by composer Frederick Shepherd Converse and librettist George Edward Barton, which premiered March 18, 1910 — and in calling it an 'American' opera, some newspapers quibbled about Herbert's Irish origin. Nevertheless, great anticipation preceded the premiere of this 'American' opera with an English-language libretto, which featured first-rank stars Mary Garden and John McCormack and an unstinted production. (The production, in both Philadelphia and New York, was mounted by the Chicago Grand Opera Company, which did not present it in Chicago because the opera house there was fully booked for the season). Prior to the premiere the Times carried numerous articles, one being a full-page
Composer Victor Herbert autographed his portrait
with a notation from the opera.
musical analysis quoting portions of the score in musical notation and analyzing their function within the structure of the opera. The opera was, according to Meredith Willson, 'probably the biggest flop of all time,' although the Chicago production company retained it in its repertoire for three seasons. The Times reported that the audience at the Philadelphia premiere evidenced 'positive excitement' after the first act, but that 'After the second act, however, which is evidently intended to be the principal feature of the opera, in which the effects are piled one upon another, the audience was curiously apathetic.' In New York, the reviewer commented on 'a fine production' and said 'the management was very much in earnest in its production of Natoma,' and that the opera 'has had an enormous amount of preliminary heralding and puffery, and ... the Opera House was filled with a very large audience.' Nevertheless, 'at the end, the audience seemed wearied and anxious to go.' He called the libretto 'amateurish,' the prose 'bald and conventional,' and the lyrics 'of the bad old operatic kind, constructed on Voltaire's theory that what is too foolish to be said is appropriate to be sung.' He spends two paragraphs picking out improbabilities in the plot. He called Herbert's music 'pointedly and strongly dramatic.' He questioned the value of the Indian 'color,' on the grounds that Indian music is not familiar to American ears, hard and uncouth, difficult and intractable.... Only in two cases has in introduced Indian songs in their original form: in the savage 'Dagger Dance' in the second act and the 'Hawk Song' that Natoma sings in the third. Mr. Herbert has been ingenious in his use of the Indian elements, to make their rhythmic and melodic characteristics count for their utmost. It may be that they count for too much. There is undoubtedly a monotony in their frequent repetition.... In some of his music written in neither Indian nor Spanish idioms Mr. Herbert is less fortunate. Some of them have slipped too easily from his pen, and there is the flavor of comic opera about them. In Meredith Willson's account—his having been born in 1902, presumably not at first hand— Oh, the lucky, lucky few thousands who were able to beg, steal, or forge tickets to the Metropolitan on that gala night! And of course the plans for the reception after the undoubted triumph included every kind of caviar, pheasant, and dignitary under glass that could possibly be squeezed into the banquet room at the Friar's Club.... The disaster became apparent early in the first act, and by the intermission all the people who were able to attend the reception... were clutching at their bosoms in agony, knowing they couldn't possibly go to this reception and that they couldn't possibly not go.... The opera got worse clear down to the last curtain, which finally fell, like the hopes of the customers praying for a last-minute miracle. In Willson's telling the situation was saved by Chauncey Depew, who made a speech in which he pulled out some clippings, saying it was appropriate to 'read these reviews.' Everyone froze in his chair as he read review after review saying things like 'what happened last night was neither opera nor drama,' 'the performance was disgraceful and never should have been allowed,' before revealing to the horrified audience that the reviews he was reading were not of Natoma, but actual reviews of the first performance of Bizet's Carmen. He saved the situation, but Willson opined that 'It would have taken the great Manitou himself to have saved Natoma. A three day event culminating in a July 13, 2014 reading of the complete opera was produced under the auspices of VHRP LIVE! All parts of the event were open to the public. The reading was performed with a 58-piece orchestra, a 36-member chorus, soloists and was conducted by Gerald Steichen. This reading was favorably reviewed by national press including a review for OPERA NEWS There were also international articles about the event [Source]

Our Native American Heritage
by Barbara Graichen

The first settlers arrived in the Sacramento Valley as early as 8,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of them in Sacramento County is found along the Cosumnes River near Rancho Murieta where crude stone tools were recovered from gravels estimated to be 12,000-18,000 years old. The first Natomas residents, sometimes called the Windmillers, were mainly hunters. They established villages in Natomas about 4,500 to 5000 years ago. However, some of the sites have not been fully evaluated so they may be older. Around four thousand years ago, the activities, language and cultural habits of Natomas residents changed. People began to spend more time gathering the abundant and tasty native food found in Natomas. They baked, made jewelry from shells, stones and crystals, and traded pelts and food for beads, obsidian, chert, greenstone, quartz, slate, and other materials not found in Natomas. By 500 A.D., the Maidu-Nisenan culture was firmly established. Many people were living in villages along the Sacramento and American Rivers along western and southern Natomas, and Dry and Auburn Ravine Creeks to the east and north. By the 1800s, over 100,000 native peoples lived in the Central Valley. As many as 10,000 Maidu-Nisenan people lived in Natomas. In 1832, John Work counted 1,500 people living at the confluence of the Sacramento and Feather Rivers near present day Verona. These people, the Maidu, gave Natomas its name. "Natomas" is a Maidu word meaning north place or upstream people. The Maidu were a branch of the Nisenan people. The word, "Nisenan," means our people or among us. Most of the Natomas Maidu lived on natural levees or high ground along our rivers and creeks. There were at least six villages along the American and Sacramento Rivers from Northgate Boulevard to Verona. They were called Wollack (near Verona), Leuchi, Nawrean (west of Power Line Road), Wishuna, Totola (in northern Natomas), and Pusune (southern Natomas). Other settlements were located along Dry Creek in eastern Natomas, and Auburn Ravine Creek in northern Natomas. Remnants of villages, cemeteries, ceremonial grounds, trading sites, fishing stations, seasonal camps and river crossings still remain in Natomas. Their locations are kept hidden from the public so they won't be disturbed. There have been several archaeological digs in Natomas, and beautiful pottery and other items from sites, like the now destroyed Bennet Mound (west of Power Line Road), are on display in various California museums. Natomas was considered the best place to live in Western North America because of the mild climate and abundant year round food resources. It was a bit like paradise, here. There was no need to work hard raising crops, tending livestock or going to work every day. There was ample shade in the forested areas. Rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes teemed with Salmon, Steelhead Trout, Tule Perch, crawdads, ducks, geese, turtles, mussels, freshwater clams and bullfrogs. Grasslands and forests supported pheasants, rabbits, doves, and quail. Elderberries, grapes, onions, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, brodiaea bulbs, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, blackberries, nuts, roots and tubers, and grains grew wild in Natomas. They were easy to find and gather. There were forests and herds of elk, pronghorn antelope, and deer. Early explorers (Yount, 1837) wrote that the deer, antelope and elk were so tame that people could walk amid them without startling them. The Maidu built granaries and made or traded milling equipment, mortars and pestles, baskets, harpoons, fish spears, bows and arrows, quivers, mats, pipes, nets, ropes, antler wedges, balsa canoes, obsidian knives, and other stone tools. Villages or groups of villages were organized into a tribelet under the authority of a "headman." The office could be elected but was usually hereditary. The main functions of the headman were to settle disputes, host visitors, and oversee other activities. Maidu villages generally had 3-7 houses although larger villages housed up to 200-300 people. Dwellings were 10-15 feet in diameter and generally dome shaped. They were covered with bark or brush and placed over slight depressions. This kept residents very cool during hot Natomas summers. People also built 30 foot diameter or larger round houses for dances, gatherings and ceremonies. Natomas was a peaceful and marvelous place to live. Unfortunately, paradise was lost. In 1832, a group of Hudson Bay Company workers brought malaria to Natomas. Within a few months, seventy-five percent of Natomas' residents died. The gold rush brought miners and settlers, some of whom destroyed villages, killed people or forced them into slave labor. Many other Maidu people died of measles, consumption or from horrible working conditions. The herds of antelope, elk and other large mammals disappeared. Place names, like Elkhorn Boulevard and Natomas, provide some of the only reminders of Natomas' first settlers and the natural environment in which they lived. Perhaps, our "new" Natomas residents can think of ways to remember and honor those who came before us. If you would like to learn more about Natomas' history, help preserve and document our history and/or meet a lot of fascinating people, call 419-0509 (Natomas Historical Society).

Steelhead Creek in the Ueda Parkway?
by Barbara Graichen

Take a moment and imagine what Natomas was like twenty years before the gold rush. In those days, dozens of creeks and streams drained the eastern valley or Sierra foothills and meandered through Natomas. Some streams emptied into a motley assortment of year round lakes and marshes that were scattered throughout our basin. Others made it all the way to the big rivers. Herds of deer and antelope, fattened on lush grasses, tules and marsh plants, roamed the lowlands of Natomas. Salmon, Steelhead and other fish were abundant as were the plump water birds. River otter feasted on fresh water clams. Forests of huge oak and cottonwood trees were visible in every direction. This was the place that thousands of native Maidu-Nisenan people called home. Many made their homes on the natural levees that paralleled the Sacramento and American Rivers and Natomas’ larger creeks. Other natives simply enjoyed hunting and fishing trips along our creeks and streams. It was a bit like paradise. Times changed. By the early 1900s, an urge to farm or sell land for profit caused the promotion of remarkable plans to drain the land. Landowners and residents reacted favorably to expensive engineering proposals to tame the rivers and creeks that flooded the basin. Dreams turned into an enormous land reclamation effort that caused Natomas to earn national renown as "the Holland of California." Lakes and marshes were drained. Natural creeks were captured in canals, with portions of their channels shunted in unfamiliar directions. Between May 1912 and December 1914, a ring of levees rose around 55,000 acres of land blocking the natural waterways that once crossed the great basin. Our streams became captive creeks; at best called sloughs; at worst drainage canals. Some local residents and groups have decided that it’s time to begin to acknowledge our natural heritage by changing the name of the Natomas East Main Drain Canal (NEMDC), the eastern boundary of Natomas, to Steelhead Creek. Reasons vary. Some people simply don’t like the official name because it brings concrete to mind rather than wildlife viewing and recreation. Some, like County Parks Commissioner, Bob Bastian, think that it helps people focus on a local recreation opportunity. "The ponds just north of Sorento Road are a great place to spend a Sunday morning fishing with my son!” he said. “Two weeks ago, we saw Canadian Geese, Mallards and a variety of other birds." Many Natomas residents who support the new name want more people to appreciate the area’s history and learn about wildlife that live in and near the creek. Valley View Acres resident, Jeanie Brower, remembers her brother catching Steelhead in the NEMDC. Jack Alvarez remembers sitting under the old Sorento Road Bridge catching Black Bass while waiting for his future wife to finish dinner. Seventy-two year old Lou Lawrence relates stories from his boyhood when friends caught Steelhead in what they then called Steelhead Creek.Some people, like me, remember year round water in the northern NEMDC and more trees. We want others to share our vision of a restored creek. Most younger residents have only seen Steelhead Creek’s degraded northern channel and few people realize that the beautiful stream that enters the Sacramento River on the north side of Discovery Park in the American River Parkway is actually the NEMDC! Many of the volunteers who helped breathe life into the Ueda Parkway, like equestrian Mike Harriman, look forward to riding horses or bicycles on the many miles of trails planned to be constructed beginning in spring 2001. They would like to see more shaded trails. Many, like Beverly Dir, enjoy seeing the trees and shrubs that have already been planted and would like to see more. "The name 'Steelhead Creek' may serve as a reminder that captive Natomas streams can provide opportunities for education, wildlife viewing and recreation." said Alta Tura, president of the Sacramento Urban Creeks Council. "They need to be kept clean and attractive for wildlife and for us." The State passed SB 2261, which requires that, the State Department of Fish and Game double the natural production of Steelhead. Perhaps Natomas can further efforts to obtain state and federal dollars for restoring and enhancing Steelhead and Salmon fisheries in our creeks by supporting the new name for the NEMDC. This could mean more scenic places for picnicking, fishing and other recreation.


Steelhead were once abundant in central California streams from Mexico to Oregon including Dry Creek and the NEMDC. For years, no one saw any Steelhead in our smaller creeks (Salmon runs continue in low numbers). In recent years, residents and scientists have begun to report Steelhead sightings. A Steelhead Trout is often called a Rainbow Trout that has the urge to travel to the sea. An adult Steelhead has a bluish back, silvery side, and small, sharply defined spots on the head, back, and sides, and on dorsal and tail fins. In fresh water, a reddish stripe can usually be seen from head to tail. Steelhead average 2 to 15 lbs. Six lbs. is considered large although a few have reached 40 lbs. Like the salmon that inhabit Steelhead (proposed) and Dry Creeks, Steelhead usually return to spawn in the upstream gravels where they were spawned. However, they do not die after spawning. Counts taken between 1943 and 1947 indicate that local Steelhead generally migrated in the spring although many Steelhead migrate between October and April. Young Steelhead spend from one to two years in fresh water before returning to the ocean. The ideal spawning location for a Steelhead is slower moving water with 2 to 14 inch depths available for babies (fry) and juveniles. Year round water temperatures need to remain below 60 degrees making Dry Creek’s spring fed upstream and higher elevation locations suitable habitat. [Source]

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